The new president of the Tokyo Olympic organising committee has hinted that foreign fans will not be allowed at this summer’s Games amid reports in the Japanese press that a decision had already been made to exclude them.
"If the situation is tough and it would make the [Japanese] consumers concerned, that is a situation we need to avoid from happening,” the committee president, Seiko Hashimoto, told reporters after online talks with the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach.
The Japanese newspaper Mainichi stated on Wednesday before the meeting with Bach that officials had already made up their minds ahead of a final announcement on the foreign fans situation expected by the end of the month.
Citing an anonymous government official, Mainichi reported: “In the current situation it is impossible to bring in foreign spectators.”
Hashimoto was questioned after the meeting as to how Japan could even consider letting in thousands of overseas fans, given how unpopular the idea is at home, where up to 80% want the Olympics cancelled or postponed again. She confirmed the subject of fans was a key part of the talks with Bach, the International Paralympic committee president, Andrew Parsons, the Tokyo governor, Yuriko Koike, and the Olympic minister, Tamayo Marukawa.
Bach hinted at hard choices to be made in comments before the meeting was closed to reporters. “We will focus on the essentials,” he said. “That means mainly the competitions. This has to be the clear focus. In this respect we may have to set one or another priority.”
The games will involve 11,000 Olympic athletes and later 4,400 Paralympians, and tens of thousands of coaches, judges, sponsors, media and VIPs. Bach said he was encouraged at the number of national Olympic committees that were getting athletes vaccinated. The IOC said it encourages vaccinations but will not require them.
Bach said his hope was “to have as many participants as possible arriving vaccinated to Tokyo”, adding: “I can inform you that a considerable number of national Olympic committees has already secured this pre-Tokyo vaccination.”
The plan is to isolate athletes in the Olympic Village alongside Tokyo Bay, putting them in a bubble when they arrive and until they leave Japan.
Hashimoto said a decision on venue capacity will be made by the end of April. She said the “zero-fans option” was not discussed. “We need to look at the overall situation before we decide on any percentage rates. We believe we will not be accepted unless the citizens feel confident that sufficient countermeasures are taken.”